Mamata writes to Modi against allowing 100 per cent FDI in coal sector

Published : June 26, 2020 21:54 IST

The corporate head office of Coal India Limited at Rajarhat in Kolkata, which was inaugurated in 2015. Photo: ASHOKE CHAKRABARTY

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed strong reservations on the new policy announced by the Centre allowing 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the coal sector. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, dated June 25, Mamata wrote that the new policy went against the very essence of “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (self-reliant India) and would “kill the vision of self-reliant policy that we have been following since the beginning”.

Mamata pointed out that the public sector giant Coal India Ltd (CIL), the largest coal producing company in the world, produces 80 per cent of India’s coal requirements and registered a profit before tax of Rs.27,000 crore (2018-19); hence the decision of the Centre to allow 100 per cent FDI for multinational corporations in coal “demeans the capability of CIL” and would “carry a wrong message”. “As regards possibility of multinational corporations bringing appropriate new technologies in the thermal coal sector, it may be mentioned that relevant technologies are universally available in this sector and our companies are already using them widely,” the letter stated.

Mamata also spoke out against the decision to shift out of Kolkata the desk offices of four CIL subsidiaries – Bharat Coking Coal Ltd, Central Coalfields Ltd, South Eastern Coalfields Ltd and Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd – saying it would be “extremely detrimental to the interest of all stakeholders of coal sector, including the employees”. She said: “It may also be mentioned that at present the Central government is continuously requesting every resident of our nation for following restricted movement in order to save their life from this extremely severe COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore this avoidable decision of Coal India Ltd (CIL) to shift these offices by 30th June 2020 is not humane and may endanger the innocent lives of its large number of employees as well as their family members. The contractual employees residing in or near to Kolkata will lose their livelihood due to the withdrawal of offices.”

CIL, on the other hand has brushed aside any apprehension of losing its position of preeminence in the sector. On June 22, CIL chairman Pramod Agarwal reportedly said, “Commercial coal mining is not going to adversely impact the production or profitability of the company. Key issues which will help to stay ahead of the competition include uniform quality of coal, cost efficiency in production and reliable timely delivery schedule.” Of the country’s entire coal resource base of 319 billion tonnes (BT), CIL controls around 54 per cent.

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